Letters to the editor

FTS 2001 Revealed

This letter is in reference to "Draft GAO report skewers FTS 2001" [FCW, March 12]. I applaud the General Accounting Office for conducting this study and hope it reaches the proper attention when it is completed.

I am one of last year's "career retirees" from federal service, but I have maintained an interest in FCW articles and issues. During the past decade, I was responsible for agency telecommunications (FTS, FTS 2000, FTS 2001) at the Environmental Protection Agency.

In my new life as a chief executive officer of a "dot-com start-up," my increased focus as a "taxpayer" results in the need to comment on a few aspects of FTS 2001 that seem to be known by many agency telecom people but not well covered in the press:

1. Although the total life- cycle costs of FTS 2001 could be lower than FTS 2000 when integrated over 10 years, the first 24 to 30 months of the FTS 2001 contract represented significant cost increases over FTS 2000 for many mixes of agency requirements.

Agencies discovered they could do better either by keeping the old contract terms (even under the "extensions" indicated in the article) or by using other "creative approaches and contracts" to preserve the old lower cost structure that AT&T, at least, was happy to provide.

2. The General Services Administration's ability to "beat up" vendors for providing poor transition teams and schedules as well as bad network performance is far reduced under FTS 2001 in comparison to FTS 2000 and especially in comparison to contemporary contracts enjoyed by other sectors.

3. There is no mechanism within FTS 2001 for the government to specify, measure and extract specific service levels of performance and reliability for frame relay and Asynchronous Transfer Mode networks.

This is a critical flaw in an environment where enterprise networks are under increasing pressure to move from "private" to "public cloud" services. In the commercial sector, when a frame relay or ATM "cloud" fails to meet specific customer-measured performance levels, the vendor immediately "feels the pain" and fixes the problem—probably at the expense of customers without such contractual tools (wonder who?).

Throughout the initial period of the FTS 2001 contract, your magazine (and others) presented a generally one-sided view of the transition—essentially, "Anyone not making the transition immediately was lazy and was wasting federal taxpayer dollars."

This view was assisted by comments from various consultants and contractors, many of whom have an interest in the transition itself.

Most "minority" views, as presented by agency telecom people, were promptly rebutted by vendor public relations people as being minor and untrue. We saw no efforts on the part of the press to uncover some of the minority views presented.

I am proud to have been associated with agencies that did not rush into a risky conversion crisis where waste and bad service would have been the daily mantra.

These agencies continue to phase in their conversions prudently, analyzing the costs and the risks as they go—as any commercial network managers would. I'm happy we waited!

Bruce Almich
Chief executive officer
Network Development Group Inc.
Research Triangle Park, N.C.


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